Confidential Counsellor and Clinical Psychologist
Current location: Antwerp, Belgium
Languages: English, Dutch, French
Aviation experience: I am a qualified pilot and my most recent flying role was with TUIFly Belgium as a B737 NG FO and I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology.
As a teenager I travelled a lot and was instantly attracted to the aviation industry. As opposed to most people, who simply want to get from A to B, my holiday starts the moment I set foot in the airport. What attracts me most is being literally disconnected from the world below. For me, flying an airplane is the ultimate me-time. I followed the Integrated ATPL route and trained at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy Brussels.
They say that every (student) pilot comes across a rough patch during their training. Whether it’s during initial training, type rating, or any part of their flying careers. For some, it’s the theoretical part that’s challenging, others struggle with flight control skills. My challenging chapter started the first day of school and ended...well, I’ll get back to you when it does.
As a clinical psychologist I have been trained in a variety of soft skills and human performance topics. However, I don’t think I ever used a dictionary as much as when I read through my book on ‘Electrics’. Needless to say, technical subjects took some extra dedication.
Next, the practical part. During my first flights it became apparent that I struggled with small motor skills. It took a few extra sessions for me to achieve the satisfactory standards.
Furthermore, job search, type rating, first airline experience, covid-19 pandemic,...all came with their own challenges. Nothing comes easy, but it’s what makes a ‘Resilient Pilot’.
In my class there were these “TopGun-Maverick-BornToBeAPilot” guys who seemed to be floating through all modules of flight training.
Accepting that ‘having difficulties’ didn’t make me any less of a good pilot took some time and guidance.
Hands down, the thing I enjoyed most about flying was being part of the crew – by which I include all personnel that make a flight possible, e.g. ATC, ramp controllers, handlers, ground crew,... Up there, all you’ve got is each other. Whether you have a simple administrative discrepancy or a full blown emergency, it is all about working together on one common goal and being part of the team.
Aside from the complex technical aspects needed to pilot a jetliner, I’d have to say what I ‘Being a woman in a man’s world’.
I’ve encountered a few instances where an appropriate professional level of respect was lacking. The added imbalance of a first officer-captain hierarchy was, at times, a challenge for me to navigate.
As a psychologist I emerged myself in the development of human capital. ‘Human Factors’ and ‘Human Performance’ are my key domains of interest.
At TUIfly Belgium I was a confidential counsellor for all flight and ground personnel. It concerned factors in the workplace that cause stress, eg. discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, aggression and work pressure. Following a specific training, I was certified by Pulso Europe. As a confidential counsellor I was, among other things, responsible for handling complaints. More specifically, I listened to the reporter's story and supported them in finding a solution and/or filing an official complaint. I often acted as an intermediary between reporter and senior management. In addition, I acted as a mediator in peer disputes and I was responsible for prevention and information.
Secondly, as a clinical psychologist, I have experience with guiding and therapeutically supporting children and adolescents with cancer (and their families).
I am currently not flying or part of an airline and I am pursuing a career change into the field of ‘Human Factors’ and ‘Pilot Peer Support Programs’. Going through a career change myself I am equipped to mentor and aid fellow aviation professional looking to transition out of the cockpit.